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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Mobility Works Commercial - November 25, 2014

Mr. Dennis Summers
Vice President
MobilityWorks Commercial
1090 West Wilbeth Road
Akron, OH 44314

Re: Final Assembly Determination

Dear Mr. Summers:

I write in response to your June 27, 2014 request for a determination by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as to whether the Mobility Works Commercial (Mobility Works) conversion processes on minivans, such as the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Caravan, into wheelchair-accessible vehicles — MobilityWorks' Liberty minvans (both long and short-cut [1]) — are sufficient to meet the Buy America requirements for final assembly under 49 C.F.R. § 661.11. For the reasons set forth below, I find that Mobility Works' conversion processes consist of sufficient manufacturing activities to conclude that these activities meet the final assembly requirements under 49 C.F.R. § 661.11. [2]

I. Background

A. Procedural History

On June 21,2010, FTA issued a blanket Buy America waiver for final assembly of minivans and minivan chassis based upon its determination that there was no manufacturer that was willing and able to perform final assembly on these types of vehicles in the United States. [3]

On December 3, 2012, FTA rescinded the Buy America waiver for final assembly of minivans and minivan chassis because a vehicle — the Vehicle Production Group's MV-1 — that meets the Buy America requirements for final assembly became domestically available. [4]

On June 28, 2013, FTA made two separate final assembly determinations for Braun Corporation (Braun) and ElDorado National-Kansas (ElDorado) vehicles. [5] FTA found that Braun's conversion processes on incomplete Chrysler or Dodge minivans into a wheelchair-accessible Braun Entervan were sufficient to meet the final assembly requirements under 49 C.F.R. § 661.11. Similarly, FTA found that final assembly of ElDorado Amerivans took place in the United States as required by 49 C.F.R. § 661.11. [6]

On June 27, 2014, MobilityWorks requested a determination from FTA on whether Mobility Works' conversion processes on their Liberty minivans were sufficient manufacturing to constitute final assembly for purposes of Buy America at 49 C.F .R. § 661.11.

B. MobilityWorks' Conversion Processes (or Stages)

MobilityWorks' facility, where the incomplete vehicles' conversion processes take place, is in Akron, Ohio. According to Mobility Works, the following activities take place for its rear-entry wheelchair accessible minivans:

  • (1) Removal, modification and interconnection of the rear axle, including rear axle height extensions, thereby modifying the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) rear axle installation, allowing for the chassis body to be raised for ground clearance to the lowered floor.
  • (2) Re-routing and interconnection of cooling and braking systems.
  • (3) Modification of OEM electrical harness allowing for integration of the minivan conversion options to fully function with the OEM electrical and door systems.
  • (4) Removal of the OEM steel floor structure from the "c" pillar to the rear bumper.
  • (5) Installation and interconnection of a new galvanealed lowered floor assembly.
  • (6) Installation of an aluminum ramp.
  • (7) Removal, modification, then installation and interconnection of the suspension system.
  • (8) Removal, modification, then installation and interconnection of the exhaust system.
  • (9) Removal and installation of the driver and passenger designated seats.
  • (10) Installation of second row passenger designated seating positions.
  • (11) Road test to verify the assembly of the component parts upon completion of manufacturing activities.
  • (12) Water test to verify no leaks are encountered after manufacturing activities.
  • (13) Final inspection of the individual components and vehicle, i.e., paint, undercoat, fit and function.
  • (14) Any repairs necessary.

In addition, MobilityWorks certifies as a final stage manufacturer per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is responsible for compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Also, MobilityWorks has its vehicles crash-tested and the seats pull-tested.

Based upon the information provided above, MobilityWorks asserts that its conversion activities are sufficient to meet FTA's Buy America regulations at 49 C.F.R. § 661.11 and Appendix 0, and is requesting confirmation from FTA.

II. Buy America

A. Buy America requirements for Buses and Rail Cars

Under 49 U.S.C. § 5323(j)(l), FTA may not obligate funds for a project unless the steel, iron, and manufactured goods used in a project are produced in the United States. For rolling stock procurements, this requirement does not apply if the cost of the components produced in the United States is more than 60 percent of the cost of all components and final assembly takes place in the United States. [7] Final assembly is defined as "the creation of the end product from individual elements brought together for that purpose through application of manufacturing processes." [8]

The typical minimum final assembly requirements for rolling stock are further provided in Appendix D to 49 C.F .R. § 661.11 and distinguished between minimum final assembly requirements for rail cars and buses. FTA provided guidance on the final assembly requirement for buses in a March 18, 1997 Dear Colleague Letter on Buy America: Pre-Award and PostDelivery Audits, which has been added to FTA's existing regulation and is still applicable today:

In the case of a new bus, final assembly would typically include, at a minimum, the installation and interconnection of the engine, transmission, axles, including the cooling and braking systems; the installation and interconnection of the heating and air conditioning equipment; the installation of pneumatic and electrical systems, door systems, passenger seats, passenger grab rails, destination signs, wheelchair lifts; and road testing, final inspection, repairs and preparation of the vehicles for delivery. [9]

If a manufacturer's assembly processes do not include all of the activities typically considered final assembly, the manufacturer may request an FTA determination of compliance. [10] FTA reviews these requests for compliance case by case, based upon the information provided by the manufacturer. [11]

B. Final Assembly Requirement for Minivans

For the most part, FTA addresses only the typical final assembly requirements for buses and rail cars in its regulations and guidance documents, but generally does not cover minivans. [12] With respect to wheelchair-accessible minivans that use a slide-door ramp, FTA has found that the following conversion activities collectively constitute final assembly as required by 49 C.F.R. § 661.11(a) and (r):

  • (a) "Strip-Out": consists of "removal of the front and rea[r] seating components . . . , interior wall and door panels, and all carpeting."
  • (b) "Seat Re-Engineering & Modifications": consists of "remanufactured [front seats] to be easily removable for wheelchair access" and rear seats are "modified to permit forward folding for access to a kneeling system linear actuator and a proprietary vehicle slide door/ramp controller."
  • (c) "Subsystem Re-Engineering & Modifications": installing new, longer, reconfigured rear brake, fuel, heat, and air conditioning and fuel lines.
  • (d) "Fuel Tank System Re-Engineering & Modifications": removal of the original fuel tank and charcoal canister from its mid-vehicle location, rotated, relocated, and reinstalled to aft of the rear axle location. The original fuel fill pipe assembly is removed and discarded and a "new, reconfigured fuel pipe assembly is installed to meet the relocated and rotated fuel tank."
  • (e) "Fabrication of Lowered Floor Unit Body": fabrication of a new low floor unit body.
  • (f) "Floor Re-Engineering & Modifications": removal of the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) floor and undercarriage from the toe pan to the rear axle, adding of a new aft rear axle fuel tank support structure, a new kneeling system actuator housing and structure, a new spare tire/storage tub, and a new lowered floor structure, and various body work to accommodate the new lowered floor structure.
  • (g) "Exhaust Re-Engineering & Modifications": removal of the heat shields, and installing a new reconfigured exhaust pipe, hanger brackets, and muffler.
  • (h) "Engine/Transmission/Front Suspension Assembly Modifications": disconnection from the vehicle and removed, but with the engine lines and hoses left attached. Modifications are made to the engine/transmission/front suspension assembly, such as adding various types of spacing brackets, custom steering shaft extension, and two engine cradle safety bracket tube extensions. The engine/transmission/front suspension assembly is then reinstalled. In addition, a CARB compliant fuel system is installed, and the exhaust system and heat shields are installed as well.
  • (i) "Slide Door Re-Engineering & Modifications": removal of the slide doors and modifications made to accommodate a lowered floor/wheelchair ramp entrance. The doors are then reinstalled.
  • (j) "Rear Axle & Suspension Re-Engineering & Modifications": removal, modifications done to the sway bar mounting, and coil spring mounts, addition of a kneel chain bracket, and reinstallation of the rear axle.
  • (k) "Flooring & Walls": installation of a marine grade flooring substrate and covering and carpet or plastic panels with carpeted inserts. Walls are covered with new interior panels and trims.
  • (l) "Rear Bumper Re-Engineering & Modifications": involves removal of the rear bumper, reinforcing the rear bumper, and reinstalling it.
  • (m) "Wiring Re-Engineering & Modifications": reconfiguration of the seating systems and airbag systems, and modifications to accommodate the wheelchair ramp system, slide door operation, kneel function, and other accessibility modifications.
  • (n) "Ramp": installation of the manual or power wheelchair ramps.
  • (o) "Paint & Undercoat": newly installed components are painted and the entire floor is undercoated.
  • (p) "Miscellaneous": Among other things, the vehicle is inspected, weighed, and recertified by [the wheelchair minivan conversion manufacturer]. [13]

III. Discussion

Upon careful review of MobilityWorks' conversion or manufacturing processes in consultation with FTA engineers, I find that such processes are sufficient to meet the final assembly requirement for rolling stock under 49 C.F .R. § 661.11 (a) and (r). In two separate June 27, 2013 letters of interpretation, FTA found Braun and ElDorado's manufacturing processes sufficient to meet final assembly for Buy America purposes, as discussed supra. In a June 25, 2014 letter of interpretation, FTA found another manufacturer, AutoAbility, LLC, to meet the final assembly requirements because its processes were substantially similar, if not the same, as the activities described within Braun and ElDorado's scope of work. [14] Now, FTA also finds that MobilityWorks' manufacturing processes to its Liberty minivans are similar, if not the same, as Braun and ElDorado's processes.

Mobility Works makes substantial changes to the interior and exterior of the minivan, including, among other things, adding a wheelchair ramp, installing a new lowered floor, and making modifications to and reinstalling the fuel system, suspension, and exhaust system. These activities result in a Mobility Works Liberty minivan- a new and significantly different vehicle from the Chrysler and Dodge minivans. Finally, MobilityWorks is responsible for conducting various tests under the FMVSS and certifying as the final stage manufacturer. Accordingly, Mobility Works' manufacturing activities in the United States at its Akron, OH facility are sufficient to meet the final assembly requirements under 49 C.F.R. § 661.11(a) and (r), as a minivan that is converted for wheelchair accessibility.

IV. Conclusion

Based upon the foregoing, I find that MobilityWorks' manufacturing activities meet the final assembly requirements under 49 C.F.R. § 661.11. This decision is limited solely to minivans that are converted for wheelchair accessibility by MobilityWorks and based upon MobilityWorks' asserted final assembly processes described herein. Deviation from these described processes may result in a different conclusion. Lastly, this decision does not cover the domestic content requirement under 49 U .S.C. § 5323(j)(2)(C)(i) and 49 C.F .R. § 661.11.

If you have any questions, please contact Richard Wong at (202) 366-0675 or


Dana C. Nifosi
Acting Chief Counsel

[1] Long and short-cut refers to the interior length of the vehicle.

[2] This determination is limited to the final assembly requirements under Buy America for rolling stock. It does not cover the requirement that the cost of components produced in the United States is more than 60 percent of the cost of all components. 49 U.S.C. § 5323(j)(2)(C)(i); 49 C.F.R. § 661.11 (a). I note that the information that Mobility Works provided contains one list, which contains the vehicle as manufactured by Chrysler, and a separate list that contains components that Mobility Works manufactures or purchases for its converted vehicle. Each list contains percentages of domestic material cost, but only of the materials provided in that list. When calculating domestic material cost and whether it meets the 60 percent threshold, the percentage of a specific component can only be determined by calculating the total costs of all of the components, i.e., the components provided in both lists. Also, please note that the cost of the final assembly activities may not be included in the calculation of the domestic content. 49 C.F.R. § 661.11(q).

[3] 75 Fed. Reg. 35,123.

[4] 77 Fed. Reg. 71 ,673.

[5] Letter from Peter Rogoff, Administrator, FTA, to Nick Gutwein, President, BraunAbility (July I, 20 13); Letter from Peter Rogoff, Administrator, FTA, to Andrew lmanse, Group President of Commercial Bus & Ambulance Division, Thor Industries, Inc. (July 1, 2013).

[6] On June 25, 2014, FTA also made a determination with respect to final assembly for AutoAbility, LLC's conversion processes for its wheelchair accessible minivans and found that those processes were sufficient to meet the final assembly requirements under 49 C.F.R. § 661 .11. Letter from Dana Nifosi, Deputy Chief Counsel, FTA, to Charles Fortinberry, Chief Executive Officer, AutoAbility.

[7] 49 U.S.C. § 5323(j)(2)(C); 49 C.F.R. § 661.11(a).

[8] 49 C.F.R. § 661.11(r).

[9] See also 49 C.F.R. § 611.11 app. D, para. b.

[10] FTA Dear Colleague Letter, March 18, 1997; 49 C.F.R. § 661.11 app. D, para. c.

[11] 49 C.F.R. § 661.11 app. D, para. c.

[12] See, e.g., 49 C.F.R. § 611.11 app. D.

[13] Memorandum from Dorval R. Carter, Jr., Chief Counsel, FTA, on the determination as to whether the process by which the Braun Corporation (Braun) converts incomplete Chrysler minivans into Braun Entervans satisfies FTA's Buy America requirements for final assembly to Peter M. Rogoff, Administrator, FTA 2-3 (June 28, 2013); see also Memorandum from Dorval R. Carter, Jr., Chief Counsel, FTA, on the determination as to whether the process by which ElDorado National-Kansas (ElDorado) converts incomplete Chrysler and Dodge minivans into ElDorado Amerivans satisfies FTA's Buy America requirements for final assembly to Peter M. Rogoff, Administrator, FTA 2-3 (June 28, 2013).

[14] See supra note 6.